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    Sale 7632

    Old Master & British Pictures (Evening Sale)

    2 December 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 15

    Barthel Bruyn I (Wesel 1493-1555 Cologne)

    Portrait of Gerhard von Westerburg (1486-after 1539), half-length, in a fur-trimmed mantle and a black hat

    Price Realised  

    Barthel Bruyn I (Wesel 1493-1555 Cologne)
    Portrait of Gerhard von Westerburg (1486-after 1539), half-length, in a fur-trimmed mantle and a black hat
    dated and inscribed with the age of the sitter '1524 38' (upper left and right)
    oil on panel
    24½ x 20 5/8 in. (62.3 x 52.4 cm.)


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    Having recently been restituted to the present owners, this picture - an early tour de force by Barthel Bruyn the Elder - becomes arguably the most important portrait by the artist still to remain in private hands. Bruyn was the founder of the school of portraiture in Cologne and its leading exponent for the first half of the sixteenth century. Painted in 1524, this dates from early in the artist's career when he was working at the height of his powers in order to try and establish his reputation in Cologne. From the same period, comes the cycle of pictures executed by Bruyn between 1522 and 1525 for the high altar in the Cathedral at Essen, a work that is generally regarded as the masterpiece of the artist's early religious output. Apart from a small pair of portraits said to be dated 1616 and 1617 (see H. Westhoff-Krummacher, op. cit., nos. 1 and 2), this is the artist's earliest known dated picture and one in which Bruyn can be seen to establish a format that he was to repeat in his portraits, with numerous variations, for the rest of his career.

    Like the majority of Bruyn's portraits, the present work was originally conceived with a pendant depicting the sitter's wife and was probably painted to commemorate their wedding. That picture, also dated 1524, is in the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterloo, and shows the lady (aged 26) turned to the left holding a carnation (see fig. 1). How long the pictures remained together is unknown, but they had already been separated by the time the present work was first documented in the sale of the collection of Frans Pick in Bonn in 1819.

    The male sitter was traditionally identified as the Cologne humanist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486-1533), whose date of birth accords with the date and the age of the sitter given in the portrait. However, as Westhoff-Krummacher made clear, this identity was thrown into doubt by the fact that the details for the female portrait do not concur with those of Nettesheim's wife. He married the eighteen year old Jane Loyse Tissier in 1521, which would make her only twenty-one (rather than twenty-six) in 1524 when this picture was painted. Furthermore, the biography of Nettesheim, records that they were not actually in Cologne at all in 1524 (see J. Werres, Nachrichten über H.C. Agrippa von Nettesheim in den Beiblättern der Kölnischen Zeitung, 1833, p. 613).

    The main clue as to the correct identification of the sitter is given by the signet ring displayed prominently on the man's right forefinger, and Westhoff-Krummacher was first to recognise the crest as that of the Westerburg family of Cologne. The same crest can be seen in the keystones of various arches in the church of St. Colomba in Cologne, which were identified by Baumeister in 1910 as belonging to the Hanseatic league merchant Arnold van Westerburg, on the basis of old payments and receipts that bore his emblem (see W. Baumeister, Zeitschrift für christliche Kunst, Cologne, 1910, p. 361).

    Gerhard von Westerburg was Arnold's eldest son. He studied law at the University of Cologne in 1514/15 and then in Bologna 1515-17 and is known to have visited Rome. He became actively involved in the Reformation on his return to Germany, attaching himself to various movements at different times - to the Swiss reformist Bullinger, the Anabaptists in Münster and the Zwickauer leader Stork - always in the sincere desire to improve religious, political and social conditions. In 1523 he married Gertraude von Leutz in Jena, and presumably commissioned Bruyn to commemorate their union the following year.

    It is quite possible that the sitter and the artist were well acquainted. Bruyn himself was actively involved in civic life in Cologne (he was elected to the city's auxillary council in 1518 and 1521), and the city's mayors, lawyers, scholars and public officials made up his clientele. His reputation was founded on honest and direct portraits without recourse to flattery and over-embellishment. His portrayal of Westerburg is especially powerful, catching a determined and uncompromising expression in what must be a remarkably true likeness of a man of intense conviction.

    While emphasis is given to the man's face, Bruyn also renders detail with meticulous care, as evinced by the rendering of the straps that hang from the sitter's hat and the shadows they cast over his face. Prominence is also given to the man's hands as he seems to just raise his right arm slightly to show off the ring worn on his forefinger - the key to his identity. The pictorial format was most likely influenced by the portraits of Joos van Cleeve but also reveals a debt to Bruyn's contemporary Hans Holbein, to whom the picture was attributed when it was first recorded in 1819. A copy of the present work is in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne (inv. 236).

    The picture was owned for some ten years by the famous Viennese collector Frederick Jacob Gsell, in whose posthumous sale it appeared in 1872. Gsell was French by birth but settled in Vienna as a young man where he cultivated his passion for collecting. By the time of his death, his collection comprised over six hundred pictures, more than a thousand drawings and oil sketches, and in the region of two hundred sculptures. The foreword to his 1872 sale catalogue describes

    'Un amour profound, intime de l'art, un goût passionné joint un entendement délicat, un sentiment du beau merveilleusement développé, une situation de fortune des plus heureuses s'étaient réunis chez lui pour render possible la creation de cette galerie de premier ordre'.

    Gsell was said to have been inspired early on by the collection of Nicolaus Barasowsky in Vienna at whose sale in 1855 he made notable purchases. He continued to buy in many of the major sales in Vienna over the next decades. In 1859 he added significantly to his collection from the sale of Samuel Festetits, with purchases such as Jacob van Ruisdael's Wooded Landscape (Washington, National Gallery of Art), and Jan van Goyen's River Landscape (Philadelphia, The Barnes Foundation). Perhaps the highlight of Gsell's holding of Dutch pictures were five works by Frans Hals including the Portrait of a Man in a Hat and Portrait of Tieleman Roosterman, both of which also used to hang in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, and were sold on behalf of Barons Albert and Nathaniel Rothschild in these Rooms, 8 July 1999, lots 220 and 219 (now Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna; and Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio).

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Provenance

    Franz Pick collection, Bonn; (+) sale, Neusser, Bonn, 15 July 1819, lot 5, as 'Das Portrait des Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, von Hans Holbein'.
    J.P. Weyer Collection, Cologne; his sale, Heberle, Cologne, 25 August 1862, lot 158, as 'Portrait des Gelehrten Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim'.
    Friedrich Jakob Gsell (1811/2-1871) Collection, Vienna; (+) sale, Plach, Vienna, 14 [=1st day] March 1872, lot 191, as 'Bildniss des Gelehrten A.v. Nettesheim in Colü... - Schön wie Holbein'.
    Salomon B. Goldschmidt, Frankfurt; sale, Schwarz, Vienna, 11 March 1907, lot 13, as 'Brustbild des Agrippa von Nettesheim', where acquired at the sale or shortly afterwards by
    Rudolf Ritter von Gutmann (1880-1966), Vienna;
    Confiscated by the Nazi authorities, 1938;
    Transferred to the Neuen Burg Central Depot, 1939;
    Selected by Dr Hans Posse for the 'Führer Museum', Linz, October 1939;
    Transferred to the Munich Central Collecting Point by Allied forces, 1945 (Mü 620);
    Returned to Austria, 1945.
    Acquired by the Kunsthistorishes Museum, Vienna, July 1947 (inv. no 9095).
    Restituted to the heirs of Rudolf Ritter von Gutmann, May 2008.


    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF THE HEIRS OF RUDOLF RITTER VON GUTMANN (1880-1966)

    Rudolf Ritter von Gutmann was born on 21 May 1880 in Vienna, the son of coal and steel magnate Wilhelm von Gutmann and his wife Ida, née Wodianer. One of the foremost entrepreneurs of the Austro-Hungarian industrial revolution, Wilhelm von Gutmann was also active in civic life - he founded the fore-runner of the Federation of Austrian Industrialists - and in philanthropic work. He was involved in the establishment and funding of many Jewish charities, schools and institutions, such as the famed Rudolfinerhaus Hospital in Vienna.

    After Wilhelm's death in 1895, his son Max assumed responsibility for the family business, allowing his brother Rudolf to pursue his interest in the Fine Arts. Financially independent, Rudolf built up a vast collection of Old Master paintings, works of art, engravings, prints, books and manuscripts. Within a few years he had assembled a collection that was considered to be one of the finest and most important private collections in Austria.

    In 1938, only hours before the Anschluss, Gutmann and his wife Marianne, née Freiin von Ferstel, fled Austria, leaving behind all their possessions. They escaped to Czechoslovakia and finally settled in British Columbia, where they were to live until Rudolf von Gutmann's death in 1966.

    Gutmann's collection, consisting of more than 1000 items, his business assets and his extensive real estate, were all seized by the Nazis. The majority of the art collection was intended for Hitler's planned Linz Museum and stored under the Führervorbehalt. Many items entered museums and public collections, including the National Library, the Kunsthistorische Museum, the Joanneum, Graz, the Belvedere and the Albertina.

    Gutmann was successful in regaining parts of his collection after the War and, following the Austrian Art Restitution Act (1998), 'donated' works from the National Library and the Albertina were returned to his heirs in 2006. This picture was returned to his heirs from the Vienna Kunsthistoriches Museum in 2008.


    Literature

    E. Firmenich-Richartz, Bartholomäus Bruyn und seine Schule, Leipzig, 1891, p. 107.
    J.J. Merlo, Kölnische Kunstler in alter und neuer Zeit neu barb. und erw., hsg. von Eduard Firmenich-Richartz, Düsseldorf, 1895, no. 4.
    C. Aldenhoven, Geschichte der Kölner Malerschule, Lübeck, 1902, no. 113.
    Katalog der Kunsthistorischen Ausstellung, Düsseldorf, 1904, p. 31.
    U. Thieme and F. Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler, V, 1911, p. 157.
    E. Firmenich-Richartz, Die Brüder Boisserée, Jena, 1916, p. 219.
    H. Friedberger, in Cicerone, IX, 1917, p. 378.
    Katalog der Gemäldegalerie - Vlamen, Holländer, Deutsche, Franzosen, II, ed. G. Heinz and F. Kleiner, Vienna, 1963, no. 76.
    H. Westhoff-Krummacher, Barthel Bruyn der Ältere als Bildnismaler, Munich, 1965, pp. 97-100, no. 3, illustrated.
    Die Gemäldegalerie des Kunsthistorischen Museums in Wien. Verzeichnis der Gemälde, Vienna, 1991, p. 606, no. 9095, illustrated.


    Exhibited

    Cologne, Josef-Haubrich Kunsthalle, Lust und Verlust. Kölner Sammler zwischen Trikolore und Preußenadler, 28 October-11 February 1996.
    Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, 1947-2008.